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Lerner students use workforce experiences to create first MBA conference

The University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics recently hosted its first-ever master of business administration (MBA) student conference.

With the title “Launching Tomorrow’s Business Leaders,” the one-day conference was conceptualized, planned and hosted by a committee of MBA students from Lerner’s MBA Student Association (MBASA).

The idea for the conference was borne of MBASA conference committee co-chair Poorva Dharkar’s experiences as a medical professional before enrolling in UD’s MBA program.

Dharkar, who also has a doctorate in biochemistry, worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which offered day conferences for students to further their educations and careers.

With this in mind, Dharkar mentioned the idea to Lerner College Dean Bruce Weber, suggesting they implement it at UD.

Weber said that when MBASA students first approached him with their idea for the conference, he was impressed with their enthusiasm and desire to take the initiative.

“The ambition and drive shown by Lerner’s MBA students are admirable,” Weber said.

Then, along with a group of other MBA students, Dharkar co-created an ad hoc committee under the MBA Student Association.

“Everybody brings in their own strengths, so it made for a very successful start,” said Gervan Williams, who is committee co-chair along with Dharkar.

But Dharkar said that at first the group faced difficulties in establishing the new conference.

“We had no money, and no speakers,” she explained. “It wasn’t easy.”

However, Dharkar – along with Williams, Moses Senesie (MBASA board project coordinator), Daniel McCaffery (MBASA treasurer) and Adam Bell (MBASA president) – worked successfully with other committee members and supporters to arrange the event.

“Last fall, we talked to the incoming students about our organization, and that’s when we got a huge influx of people like Moses,” McCaffery said. “Even though they weren’t able to join the executive board yet, they were able to join committees, and that’s when the committee became fully formed.”

Dharkar added that the committee also worked closely with the Lerner College's associate dean of MBA and graduate programs Jack Baroudi and academic program coordinator Amy Becker. Both Baroudi and Becker were "helpful and involved at every step with us," Dharkar said.

Senesie attributed the success to “all of us working together.”

Weber also congratulated the MBA student organizers for their success in partnering with the leading professionals who spoke at the event about intersections between technology and financial services.

One such professional, event keynote speaker Andrea B. Tinianow, is first director of corporate and international development for the state of Delaware.

Tinianow discussed her latest work with the Delaware Blockchain Initiative, a distributive ledger technology, and offered advice to student attendees at the end of her speech.

“Take initiative, and create your opportunity,” Tinianow said. “Create your team – you can’t do something big all by yourself. The good news is that you don’t always have to be the expert.”

She added, “Look for allies. Don’t be afraid to find partners. Bring other bright people along with you.”

Graduate student Wei Yin, who attended the MBA conference, described it as “very helpful, useful and well-organized.”

“In the morning, many successful people gave us direction on career choices and innovation in VR and AR application,” he said. “In the afternoon, the organizer gave us